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Make it Fashion: Zealous Schools explore expression, social justice in Project Runway unit

For the past five weeks, students at Zealous Schools have been working on a unique fashion art project, all initiated by a seventh-grade student

Students at Zealous Schools pose with Adrienne Haydu, fashion expert, guest teacher and future language arts coach.
Zealous Students, Special to the Daily

For the past five weeks, students at Zealous Schools in Edwards have been working on a unique fashion art project. Through the project, students explored expression through designing, sewing and learning all about the fashion industry. This week, the project ended with a Project Runway catwalk competition at Eagle Ranch’s wood park structure.

The five-week unit was initiated by one of the school’s seventh-grade students who had recently taken an interest in fashion and sewing.

“I got into sewing and the fashion industry during quarantine as a way to do something, because COVID-19 is boring,” said Sam Grimmer, a seventh-grade student at Zealous. “At my school, we are taught to teach the students around us, so I took inspiration from around the school to put together a lesson plan.”



As part of Grimmer’s lesson plan, the students split into six teams, each one with their role and responsibilities. Each team had a lead fashion designer, a lead sewer, an accessories and makeup stylist as well as a team captain.

Over the course of five weeks, the students developed a fashion project that they would ultimately show at the “Project Runway”-type event while learning the ins and outs of the fashion industry. This spanned from lessons on how to sew and design their projects to learning how fashion can be used both as a tool for expression and as a way to discriminate or disempower people.



“On the surface, it looks like a fashion show — playing with fabric, getting to know the sewing machine — but when you look into the ingredients of it, we are looking at social justice and dynamics,” said Kelsey Head, director of the Zealous Schools’ Avon campus.

As part of this social justice component, students were encouraged to push the boundaries of gender roles and stereotypes with their projects as well as ensure that the student who would model was comfortable and confident in the outfit they would wear.

“We don’t want anyone leaving this experience feeling more insecure, we want you to leave feeling more empowered by what we’re doing in projects,” Head said.

The themes for the student projects were multifaceted, centering around things like pirates, modern women, spring colors, masculinity, space exploration and more.

This type of art project aligns with a big part of Zealous School’s individualized and passion-based curriculum.

“It’s commonplace at Zealous for us to create art lessons that reflect our student population and the nature of that means our projects change every year,” Head said. “The benefit of reflective arts education is taking advantage of these genuine curiosities on the part of kids and expanding it as far as you can go with it.”

On Wednesday, the students showcased their projects to their peers with a walk down the catwalk in Eagle Ranch. But, ultimately, it wasn’t about who won. For Grimmer, his takeaway from the event was “collaboration over competition.”

“Originally, I wanted this ’Project Runway’ to be a pretty competitive thing, but then I realized we couldn’t really do that because I was one of the only students that knew how to sew. So then I think it was cool to build the community of sewers and to put more effort toward collaboration,” Grimmer said.


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